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Hand on The Rock

By Arthur Wiknik, Jr.

Since 1953, my family has owned the old schoolhouse on Blackguard Road known today as Blackguard Hall. Many years ago, our father showed us the “hand on the rock” carving after he discovered it while hunting. Since then, we have driven past the location on many occasions, usually on a snowmobile, and I have always been curious about its history.  After several inquiries, I was able to piece together the following information. 

One-hundred and fifty years ago, the wooded area adjacent to the Lovell/Waterford town line was laced with active roads and farms. Along one of those ancient trails sits a five-feet diameter weathered rock that may go unnoticed to a casual passerby. But this particular rock is by no means ordinary. It is boldly engraved with a large left hand and the name LH JEWETT that features a backward letter J. While most people carve their initials into a tree, LH Jewett made sure that his indelible marking would never succumb to a woodsman’s blade. However, this chiseled rock raises the same question as if it were a lone gravestone – Who was LH Jewett?

Hand on the Rock located near the corner of Waterford, Sweden and Lovell near the Five Kezars area. The carving was highlighted with chalk dust.
Arthur Wiknik Jr. photo

Through the assistance of Sweden’s Richard Lyman and Janet Mahannah, as well as Jewett family historians Carri Cole and Thomas Jewett, the rock carver has been identified to be Leander Hastings Jewett. Leander was born on April 4, 1851 in Sweden, Maine to Milton and Eliza (Whitcomb) Jewett, and for a time lived in the northeast corner of Sweden known as the Goshen neighborhood. The Jewett’s were ambitious, well-educated and something of a who’s who during that era. Leander’s great-grandfather was Captain Stephen Jewett, his grandfather was Lieutenant Ebenezer Jewett, his father Milton was a highly respected member of the Methodist church, and his brother William Jewett was a doctor.

As with most young men in the 1800’s, Leander was a working member of his family and likely chiseled the rock between 1868 and 1873, presumably out of boredom while helping his father do some logging. In what could be considered to be an early form of graffiti, the backwards letter “J” was no doubt Leander’s personal touch but why carve a hand? It might have been done to impress a young woman who lived in the area, forcing her to acknowledge Leander whenever she passed by. Or, perhaps Leander did it as a tribute to his religiously minded father in reference to a bible verse found in Job 28:9; “He putteth forth His hand upon the rock.” There is also a possibility that Leander made his own version of a chiseled stone located in the Dartmouth College Grants of New Hampshire where on the east bank of the Swift Diamond River sits a boulder carved with a woman’s left hand, the letters WMDOW, and a heart. It is believed that WMDOW is William Dow, a 1861 graduate of Dartmouth College. Perhaps Leander had knowledge of the New Hampshire carving or even knew William Dow personally. While these theories are difficult to prove, one thing is for certain, Leander left us a mystery that may never be completely unraveled. However, his story does not end on that marked rock.

Upon graduation from Bryant & Stratton Business College of Portland, Maine in 1875, Leander Jewett left his familiar surroundings and moved to Chicago, Illinois to work for William Deering, formerly of South Paris, Maine, at the Deering Harvester Works. It is likely that Leander was already known to Mr. Deering and with that knowledge, an agreement of employment upon the completion of his education may have been made. Leander took on the position of cashier for the Deering company and remained at that post until 1883. The Deering Harvester Works later merged with nineteen other companies that became known as International Harvester.

Leander Hastings Jewett

On November 14, 1878, while in Illinois, Leander married Sarah Freeman of Brookfield, Vermont. In 1880, their first child Eva was born. In 1883, Leander moved his family from Chicago to the rural village of Broken Bow, Nebraska, which was named after a discarded Indian bow. This area was the center of what eventually came to be known as the Sod House Frontier. The family quickly integrated themselves into the village and Leander was among the charter members of the First Methodist Church when it was organized in 1883. He also established the Custer Community Bank, the first bank in Broken Bow. Leander and his wife had two additional children, both daughters; Perley, born in 1886 and Hazel, born in 1890.

In addition to ranching, Leander continued to work in the Custer Community Bank as the head cashier. On February 15, 1886 the bank was reorganized as the First National Bank. In 1899, Leander was on the board of directors but left the bank when it was reorganized into the Broken Bow State Bank.

In the spring of 1884, the village of Broken Bow was incorporated, having a population of about 1,600. The town really began to grow in 1886 when the B&M Railroad completed a line into Broken Bow and train service began. In 1888, in order to deal with the complexities of a growing community, Leander was among the community members that banded together to incorporate a stock company towards the construction of a water works system for the town. The company was established due to the prohibitively high cost of fire insurance.

In addition to his other activities, Leander was a member of several fraternal societies. In July 1885, he was one of the founding members of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Broken Bow. One year later, Leander helped to organize Lodge #119 of the Independent Order of the Odd fellows, of which he was the initial secretary of the organization. In the late 1890’s Leander became the post master for Broken Bow and served in that capacity for many years. He was also the president of the Custer County Fair Organization from 1897 through 1899. In 1903, Leander was the president of the committee overseeing the first annual Old Settlers Association Picnic.

The Leander Jewett family

Leander died on December 31, 1914 in Broken Bow, Nebraska and is buried in Broken Bow Township Cemetery. His wife Sarah died on December 23, 1934 and is buried alongside him. In addition to Leander’s many descendants, his grandson Thomas “Tom” Talbot, was a commercial artist. Most of Tom’s work is in private collections but his murals can be seen in banks, hospitals and hotels in Nebraska. Leander’s great-grandson Richard Shinn operated one of the largest turkey ranches in the United States, producing over one million birds each year.

The “Hand on the Rock” is indeed an interesting footnote of a man who generations ago carved his name into a rock along a forgotten trail in the Maine woods. Leander Jewett would be pleased to know that his carved legacy remains unmolested and continues to be enjoyed by those willing to trek deep into the woods to see it.

Leander Jewett photos were provided by Janet Mahannah of Sweden, Maine.
General information was supplied by Richard Lyman of Sweden from “Genealogies of Early Inhabitants of Sweden, Maine 1795-1890” by Dr. Clifford L. Pike.

Additional information was supplied by Carri Cole and Thomas Jewett of the Jewett Family Reunion website. Information on the New Hampshire carved stone was from a story by John Harrigan of Colebrook, NH.

Arthur Wiknik Jr.
Higganum, CT